Right view is an ancient practice, first prescribed 2,500 years ago by the historical Buddha. It is the practice of going beyond ideas to the heart of things — to the heart of your life and to the heart of your work. It is paying attention to what is most important at this moment. It is asking and being aware of the question, what does this moment ask of me?
From the perspective of the practice of right view, some kinds of activities help us to feel comfortable, centered, and satisfied. Others cause us to feel uncomfortable, agitated, and needy. Right view means paying attention to the activities, people, and situations that bring out the best in us and the activities that bring out our worst. In Zen we speak about right view as watering the seeds of wholesomeness and not watering the seeds that are unwholesome. (Wholesome is defined as activities that lead us to peace, freedom, and awakening; unwholesome activities lead to suffering and craving and take us away from our true nature.)
Right view is seeing how we hold onto perceptions and attitudes when they are no longer accurate or useful. It is developing our understanding of how we create difficulty. We unintentionally build walls around ourselves, either for protection or just out of habit. We don’t see things as they are but as we want them to be or through the distortion of our needs or habits.
Right view is the practice of assessing our own starting point, investigating the complexity of our motivations, and exploring the depths of our intentions. It requires looking directly and clearly into our habits and patterns, of seeing where we are stuck. Our own worldview shapes our reality, how we see ourselves, how we see others, how we see our work and our life. A famous Zen saying is “Complete awakening is easy, just stop picking and choosing; give up labeling right and wrong, good and bad.”
At the same time, we must acknowledge that we live in the human world. Of course we have views. Our views, passions, and opinions are important. How do we pay attention to and understand our views without becoming stuck to a particular way of seeing the world? How can we express our views in such a way that we are not being one-sided but rather helping others to understand and loosen their ideas that might be harmful or be getting in the way? How can we be fully present and fully respond to whatever situation might confront us? There is a great quote by Nietzsche, “It is hard enough to remember my opinions without also having to remember my reasons for them.”
The essence of right view is paying attention. Notice how your body feels when you arrive at work, when you talk on the phone, when you are in meetings. Notice your state of mind as you prepare to work, as you engage in the activities of your day. Practice seeing yourself and your work from other people’s perspectives. Try seeing yourself through the eyes of people you most admire and through the eyes of those you least admire. Regularly ask others for their open feedback about your work and your place in the work world. Inquire, with an open mind.
How do you practice with Right View?
Adapted from Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration